The 2016 Presidential elections in the U.S brought forward many concerns about the use of social media and privacy issues. Cybersecurity has become the issue of our times, and more citizens are becoming paranoid about their personal information, and the extent to which they are protected by their governments.Facebook and Google are being investigated by several governments regarding their data collection and how they are using it. Organizations like Cambridge Analytica harvested advertising data, and used them in the pro- Brexit, as well as the Trump Presidential campaigns. While there is no proof, it is very conceivable that other firms may collect data from Facebook and other social media users.
The increasing use of personal data collection is alarming because there seems to be no end to the ability of criminals as well as governments to access the data and use it without permission. Foreign governments interfere with the democratic process during elections, and criminals are attacking individuals and corporations. Some of the most infamous 2018 breaches have included the following:
· Cathay Pacific – 9.4 million passengers
· Facebook – 90 million users
· Uber -57 million customersThese are only some of the many breaches experienced by corporations, but government data have not been immune to attacks, and these breaches involve very personal data which include Social Security, and Healthcare data etc. So it seems that data which used to be private are no longer so, even when shared with government agencies.
This brings me to my next point concerning government data collection. Some years ago, the Harper government decided to eliminate the Long-form census which collected data about housing, transport, employment, income and other key attributes required by various tiers of governments to plan and deliver public services. The outcry from the Chief statistician Munir Sheikh, was such that he resigned his position. In some ways I can understand the concern about who collects data and for what purpose. But today I am more concerned about what is collected and the security issue.
Governments can collect data, but how certain are they to keep them secured? The ability to collect data through the information system is so easy that what is being collected should concern citizens. Recently it has been reported that the Canadian government will be asking financial institutions to collect and provide data from some 500,000 Canadians without their knowledge. According to a report from Global News: “the national statistical agency plans to collect “individual-level financial transactions data” and sensitive information, like social insurance numbers (SIN), from Canadian financial institutions to develop a “new institutional personal information bank. Statistics Canada will be acquiring individual payments and income history information from financial institutions,”
Canadians should not only be alarmed that their private data will be collected without their consent, but that they may not be assured that their information may not be used by criminals in case of a breach. There is no guarantee that any data collected by private or public sector organizations is immune form cyber hacking and theft.
In my opinion, this latest government collection of data reeks of ‘Big Brother’. While there may have been concerns about the abolition of the Long-form census, we should be more concerned about the government’s brazen intrusion in our private lives, and its inability to protect our privacy.